Heel Striking vs Mid-Foot Striking Whether Barefoot Running or NOT
In an article that appeared in the New York Times on October 16. 2013, Gretchen Reynolds highlighted a research study on heel versus mid-foot striking in runners. The study was done by researchers at the Tampere Research Centre of Sports Medicine in Tampere, Finland. It was published in the June, 2013 edition of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. The researchers matched 19 mid-foot striking female runners with an equal number of female heel strikers and measured the amount of force the women generated with each foot strike AND where that force was hitting the body hardest.
The heel strikers, not surprisingly, jarred their knees, generating 16% more force through the knees than the mid-foot strikers. The elevated forces were most evident along the kneecaps and inside area of the knees where most so-called running ‘overuse’ injuries appear.
On the other hand, the mid-foot strikers’ legs were also prone to excessive impact force, with 20% more shock force traveling through the ankles and Achilles tendons than the heel strikers.
Basically, the study concluded that you cannot escape the cumulative impact of running – no matter how you stride. The study leader, Juha-Pekka Kulmala (PhD.), said that, based on the study’s findings, there is no one correct and painless way to run. The best running form is thus any that keeps you moving regularly.
As a barefoot runner and barefoot running coach, I tend to disagree with the study’s summation.
From my experience and use of the Squat-Scoot method of barefoot-midfoot running, there definitely IS a safe, efficient way to run. The key component of my work with runners of all ages and abilities is getting them to BRACE against the downward pull of GRAVITY. Before my runners even venture out on a run of any distance, they learn how to land lightly with minimal ground contact time.
“This significantly decreases the impact force”, taking most of the stress away from the ankles, knees, hips, and back whilst activating the running muscles (feet, calves, hamstrings, gluteals, quadriceps).
Again, from my coaching of runners over the past 25 years, landing more forward before lightly touching down on the heels prior to push-off results in injury-free, efficient, powerful running…without exception!
In conclusion, I do not particularly care what you put on (or do NOT put on) your feet to run. I DO care that you run tight, light, compact and forward to ensure safe, avoidable injury-free running.
Oh…I’m still waiting for someone in the research community to study 100% pure barefoot versus shod runners to determine which is the better way for the majority.
Coach Jeff #InjuryFreeRunning